Alive, passionate and on the move—these poems range through worlds of wide reading, inner and outer journeying, through both the historic and the personal past and present, the fleshly and
the vegetal. Always alert to “terrible Aphrodite” in their swing between blazon and contreblazon, they make “pauses in transit” with great precision of image and feeling. Subtle and confronting
at the same time, these are the fruits of a startling talent. Tracy Ryan, poet, winner of Western Australian Premier’s Book Award
A superb poetic exploitation of the intersections between language, silence and the ineffable.
Mags Webster explores proximities and propinquities with devastating intimacy.
Nothing to Declare is brilliantly ironic, smuggling nothing and everything
across ever shifting borders. Cassandra Atherton, prose-poet, author of Exhumed
Mags Webster’s poetics arises from her want to please our ears. Her hands sculpt the way we listen to her worlds. These poems create a rhythm that’s conscious of itself, that seduces us, and sews intimacies that pass over us—we know it—in emptiness. Nicholas Wong, winner of Peter Porter Poetry Prize
Mags Webster is a seriously exciting and excitable poet who can flip from sensual lyricism to sudden confrontation. In the title-poem 'nothing to declare' she sees herself as 'in love with countries' and driven by 'nomadic need'. She values when 'we're still naked and unshelled, yet to strike / out of our night-selves. It's when I'm likely to be truthful'. In her pitch-perfect poem 'Bonnard beauty reveals all', the model tells us 'I must be / the cleanest muse in Christendom'. She describes her pose: 'my legs / so decorously crossed' in the 'lapping tongues' of the bath water from which 'the steam has quite / died down'. At the end of the session, Bonnard whispers'it's time to cover yourself up'. She imagines how he will 'work on me // until late at night' long after the bath has cooled and she has left. He'll be dabbing 'at my breasts / and thighs' and she will 'recede into / a wash of stipple and blur'. She rises from the bath and as she takes the towel 'from his outstretched hand, / it's the only time his eyes / can meet mine.' 'Pauses in transit' is another pitch-perfect poem, described as 'after Octavio Paz'. But the final brilliant image is Webster's, as she describes a butterfly alighting on the 'concrete cliff' thirty-nine stories high of a Hong Kong building, where it 'spreads / a tiny book / of papery wings'. With this second volume, she is well on the way to becoming a significant new voice in Australian poetry. Judges' Report Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2021
Copies available from Book Depository, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Puncher and Wattmann
Click on the files below to hear Mags reading two poems from the book:
'Breathing lessons' (as heard on ABC Radio National Breakfast) and 'Reclaiming'